The midterms: Which party will get a Kavanaugh wave?
Anger may tip the balance.
“Democrats just killed the blue wave,” said Heather Higgins in TheHill.com. For months, the pundits and the polls have predicted major gains for Democrats in next month’s 2018 midterms, giving them control of the House of Representatives and even a shot at taking the Senate. But last week’s bitter confirmation fight over Judge Brett Kavanaugh has changed everything. Before the hearings, Democrats held a 10-point lead in the so-called enthusiasm gap—the percentage of party voters who consider the midterms “very important.” But the Democrats’ “ugly, opportunistic political war to personally destroy a man with a stellar reputation” has woken up Republicans. Last week, an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll found that the Democrats’ edge in voter enthusiasm for the midterms has shrunk to only 2 points (82 to 80 percent), said Margot Cleveland in USA Today. Republican women are now even more fired up to vote (83 percent) than their Democratic counterparts (79 percent). Why? Because women don’t want to see “their innocent fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons” subjected to the kind of shameless smear campaign that nearly ruined Kavanaugh. Their anger has “unleashed a red wave” that will limit Democratic gains in November.
“Not so fast, Republicans,” said Douglas Schoen in TheHill.com. While Republican women did rally around Kavanaugh, surveys of women as a whole show that only 30 percent believed Kavanaugh’s denials that as a hard-drinking teenager, he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford. Democrats still hold a roughly 12-point advantage among women in the generic ballot. Even worse for Republicans, said James Arkin in Politico.com, they won last week’s confirmation fight. With Kavanaugh now comfortably ensconced on the court, GOP anger will likely subside, whereas the anger of Democrats, who believe Republicans knowingly seated a perjuring abuser, will only intensify. The Republicans’ “Brett bounce” may be real, in other words, “but sustaining that momentum through Election Day won’t be easy.”
If anyone knows how to keep Republicans angry, it’s President Trump, said Peter Hamby in VanityFair.com. In tweets and in red-state rallies over the past week, the “mad puppet master of identity politics” has broadened the Kavanaugh hearings into a dystopian nightmare in which militant left-wing “mobs” are out to destroy decent, beer-drinking white men everywhere for something dumb they did decades ago. Liberals may roll their eyes, but it was exactly this kind of base-rousing, fearmongering rhetoric that got Trump elected in the first place. Here in “Trump country,” said Gary Abernathy in WashingtonPost.com, we saw on our own TV screens that Democrats and the liberal media have adopted a “presumed guilty” standard for men and Republicans. For any Republican who had been thinking of sitting out the midterms, this was “just what the doctor ordered.”
The Kavanaugh bounce is already subsiding, said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com. A new Post poll of 69 crucial House “battleground” races showed a massive 19-point swing toward Democrats since 2016; a new Politico poll shows the “enthusiasm gap” is back to where it was before the hearings and that by 46 to 40 percent Americans say the Senate should not have elevated Kavanaugh to the court. Trump, meanwhile, continues to crank up Democratic rage by mocking survivors of sexual abuse. “As the Kavanaugh issue inevitably fades for Republicans, Democrats need to keep their eyes on the prize,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. If they can’t get their voters to the polls on Nov. 6 after the GOP’s latest judicial power play, “then they don’t deserve to win.” ■